by Jason Aaron (Writer), Ron Garney, Emanuela Lupacchino (Artists), Ive Svorcina (Colorist)

The Story
: There is a traitor in the league of realms. Who could it be?

The Review: I am currently less than impressed by the current storyline in the book. While it is obvious that Jason Aaron is doing the best he can with some elements that aren’t nearly as good as those he introduced in his first mega-arc, this one still seems to be a manner to properly introduce Malekith to a new readership because of a very specific release a month ago. From the beginning of this story, a lot of the best elements were simply thrown to the side in order to tell a story about a serial-killing dark elf, with Thor now sharing the spotlight with other characters.

However, despite my initial negative overview of this whole thing, I do have to admit that this issue did provide plenty of better elements to the story. With some inner conflicts in the league of realms, the return of how mythology is presented in the Marvel universe alongside a good dose of humor, this issue does raise the bar in terms of quality and enjoyment.

The first thing that Jason Aaron does right is in how he portrays the failings of the league of realms, which was a nice idea, yet poorly executed. Showing just how the group could not really work due to some distrusts and to how politics can influence things in the nine realms, the group disband here due to not only the fact that they aren’t very effective together, but also due to an error from the god of thunder himself. This results in something more beside the cyclical and constant chase for Malekith that the group did in the previous issues, which is a change that is most welcome.

One of the better aspects of this issue is also the humor, with the disparity between culture and tradition being the butt of the joke here. The magical and fantastical nature of some characters do clash in some environment in the best of ways, like when Thor is on his goat in Manhattan. The culture of the dark elves is also presented in the most hyperbolic of ways, with the ritual stabbing, the distrust and how they cannot possibly function as a whole. There are, of course, a multitude of smaller jokes like this, which does add some levity and some diversity to the tale in general.

Still, the story in itself wasn’t so bad in this issue as well, with some neat twists and turns added to prevent it from getting repetitive. Some of the concepts presented are rather sound too, which does help in the world-building that Jason Aaron wanted to present with the nine realms. One of the factor that does help the story, however, is the focus on a smaller cast, with Thor and Waziria the dark elf being more proactive in this issue.

However, not everything is an improvement in this issue, as some elements are still lackluster. Malekith is unfortunately not the best of villains, with a certain lack of originality and even a lack of presence in this issue as well. While the addition of political play with the frost giants is something rather surprising for the character, it isn’t played with at all, leaving those who were looking for more from this antagonist with nothing quite new in the prospect.

The other character from the league of realms aren’t that better, unfortunately, with the others leaving the book early on. This results in their character not being well developed, which is rather sad considering the fact that they were there for a good number of them before they just got removed from the premise. While there is a possibility that they might return in the very next issue, their characterization isn’t particularly sharp and their role in the story isn’t so entertaining that it makes them enjoyable. Be they present or absent, they don’t really shine.

What’s more of a mixed bag is the art, with Ron Garney being helped by Emanuela Lupacchino. While the art can be particularly rough-looking at times, especially with characters, some of the backgrounds and choice of sceneries are downright gorgeous at times, with a focus on atmosphere and tone that sets some panels apart from the other with a mood that says it all, one that fits the powerful and rather mystical narrations. While some of the pages with a good number of characters might come as a bit packed with too much elements and not enough details, not all of them suffers from this lack of precision. The pages with the remaining dark elves are actually good-looking, with a mesh of atmosphere and minimal character interaction that plays to the strengths of both artists. It might not be perfect or as awe-inspiring as previous artists of this series, but the art of Ron Garney and Emanuela Lupacchino is quite competent here.

The colorization of Ive Svorcina is also a bit better this time around, with more shading used here to great effect. The last scene with the league of realms is done surprisingly well despite the high diversity, with Svorcina playing with chaos and a multitude of color quite well, adding light effects for good measure as it does play well dramatically with what unfolds on the pages. The first few pages with the frost giants are also quite impressive, with the league of realms being in stark contrast with the icy blue and colder colors of the environment, their diversity clashing quite well with the rest. It might not be Svorcina’s best work, but it is very apt nonetheless.

The Conclusion: With some plot twists, some added levity and a slight upgrade in the art, this issue makes for a better case of the talent behind the creative team. Flawed, but still quite fun despite its faults.

Grade: B-

Hugo Robberts Larivière